There is a great deal of discussion these days about the use of remotely piloted aircraft (RPAs) and how they are changing the nature of warfare. However, much of the public debate on these issues reflects a lack of awareness about how the systems are actually operated, as well as how they will become more transformative over the next decade and beyond. This is partly a reflection of a larger problem encountered with the introduction of new technologies; namely, that the rates of innovation and implementation often outpace the general public’s understanding of what is being developed and for what purposes these technologies may be used. Many current concerns regarding what are often colloquially referred to as “drones” involve the idea that these vehicles are “unmanned,” though this is, in fact, inaccurate. While it is true that these systems do not have pilots in the vehicle, most of these systems today are anything but unmanned. In fact, the manpower burdens that they have created, albeit with tremendous improvements in capabilities, are quite substantial. This is true with regard to the ground-based pilots that fly these aircraft, as well as for the associated sensor operators, ground crews, and maintenance staff. This is especially true for those involved in the processing, exploration, and dissemination (PED) functions of managing the tremendous amounts of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) data that are produced by these systems. Altogether this produces a manpower footprint per system that is actually much larger than what it takes to keep an F-15 up in the air.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Sciences(all)